What is a Freight Forwarder and Why Do You Need One?

What is a Freight Forwarder and Why Do You Need One?

When it comes to logistics, there are few vocations that are more misunderstood by the average person than a freight forwarder. It is one of the most vital pieces of the supply-chain puzzle and a crucial service that your business could greatly benefit from, but what is it, and how can it help take your logistics to the next level? 

Simply put, a freight forwarder represents businesses in the arrangement and management of their shipments and cargo. From leveraging a lengthy list of vetted international contacts to get the best price and reduce risk to offering alternative and more cost-effective options, the freight forwarder solves complex problems and works to make the business of freight a simple and effective affair.

Having an expert take the reins and manage large supply chain networks makes sense for many businesses, but it’s not always well understood by those who have not explored it. People who are new to the concept or to the business of importing in general often become confused when they consider why a business would intentionally add an additional cost and another ‘middleman’ into their supply chain. ‘Surely,’ they think, ‘we could just contact those shipping companies directly,’ and they are right to think that, but there are many cases where a freight forwarder can make all the difference to a business’s supply chain and bottom line. 

Who Should Use a Freight Forwarder? 

In general, a freight forwarder’s efficacy is tied to volume and complexity. If you are a small, bespoke garment maker, running out of your own home, but shipping internationally, it might be a straightforward affair involving just a single carrier. In that case, your communication and interactions within your supply chain is very manageable, seeing as it consists of only a handful of people. You likely had time to negotiate to shop for other potential carriers, and potentially, you curated a relationship with this carrier that yields benefits year after year. It’s the ideal situation for your size. However, this situation begins to deteriorate rapidly when you start adding volume and complexity to your operation. 

When your enterprise grows, your logistical needs grow as well. Perhaps you now aren’t just shipping single articles from your home, but you are manufacturing on a grand scale. You are potentially managing material shipments through multiple facilities and across multiple countries, without even broaching the task of shipping of the finished product to international buyers - many of which require special transportation like air or sea freight. If you attempt to keep up the one-on-one, bespoke supply chain communication technique that has carried you this far, you quickly find yourself dealing with potentially five or ten different companies, each with their own contracts and needs. You certainly don’t have time to vet this many different companies, and handling the paperwork for all of them is an exercise in frustration. 

It is at this point that you should begin to consider the services of a freight forwarder.

What Does a Freight Forwarder Do?

A freight forwarder manages every element of your freight from start to finish and can even help architect your entire supply chain. Some of the things they can offer a business include:

  • A trusted and vetted network of carriers. some text
    • These relationships can often save you money due to the preexisting and often preferential relationships your forwarder has with these carriers.
  • Compliance and customs-regulatory assistance. some text
    • This is particularly true for PCB, as our compliance and Customs brokerage team is in the same building and often works in conjunction with our freight management team.
  • The handling paperwork and coordination of air, sea, and land transportation for your goods.some text
    • This often minimizes or entirely eliminates your need for multiple contracts.
  • Decades of experience in logistics to ensure that your operation is moving at its maximum efficiency.some text
    • Not only does this mean your plan is likely as good as it can be, but it also reduces risk as your suppliers are vetted, their routes trusted, and, in the case of PCB, we can offer all-risk insurance for all your transportation needs.

What are the Advantages of Freight Forwarders?

Returning to the initial question of why a business would add an additional cost and middleman to their supply chain, the answer is surprisingly simple - it makes the development, execution, and management of your logistics plan easier and ultimately more effective. With the help of a freight forwarder, your company benefits from the knowledge and contacts of experts in their field, leaving you with more time and energy to achieve your business goals. While this is profoundly true for larger businesses, even smaller firms can benefit from the expertise that a freight forwarder can offer.

Of course, the most effective freight forwarder is the one that can offer your business more value, service, and peace of mind. PCB Freight Management has been helping companies with their logistics for decades, and our offerings are as robust as our team is tenured. For help with shipments of all shapes and sizes, be sure to get in touch with our team today. We are looking forward to getting you moving!

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About Author
Alexandra Haukaas

Alex Haukaas is a logistics professional who has been in the freight forwarding, NVOCC, and brokerage industries for over 18 years. Alex has worked in all modes of transportation, including air, ocean, truck, rail, and project cargo. Her successful management style is a hands-on approach to identifying her team's strengths, which results in a positive and cohesive work environment. In 2022, Alex was recognized by the Surrey Board of Trade for her exemplary work throughout the pandemic and received the Surrey Women in Business Corporate Leader Award.

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